“YOU see my dear...” giggles 84-year-old Joanne conspiratorially, as we both eye up the same pair of fierce red stilettos in Macy's Minneapolis, “...I try to face each day with faith not fear. My granddaughter tells me I'm a hot mess, but those shoes have got my name all over them.”
'Try their Anglophile Cocktail – a whole egg, Licor 43, Angostura bitters, and bourbon. A couple of these and the UK is little more than a distant memory'
Somehow I'm not surprised. It's pretty hard not to have a good time in this town, whatever your age. It may just be that the area is coming to the end of a typically harsh and relentless winter but it's a place seemingly ripe with positive and disarming encounters. This warm and welcoming nature has been noted, across America and has even given rise to a well-used phrase “Minnesota-nice”.
This vibrant Mid-Western city with a population of around 400,000 spans both banks of the Mississippi and adjoins the state's capital, Saint Paul. Since its incorporation as a city in 1867, Minneapolis has thrived, both as a financial and cultural hub. Now, served by a number of universities and colleges, the area has developed a social scene that simultaneously plays host to high-flying professionals, students, locals and tourists.
If you fancy a piece of this party but you'd like to do it in style, stay at The Graves 601 on 1st Avenue. The amber-bathed interior references cool, seductive Scandinavian design- from the stalactite-inspired light installations in the opulent bar, to the hand-carved, beech wood-cuttings in the upper lobby. The restaurant, Cosmos, is the only Four-Diamond restaurant in the entire state and serves elegant and decidedly un-American portions. The penthouse enjoys fabulous views and (for all those closet Liberace fans) houses an unlocked and unsupervised baby grand.
Just next door is Kieran's, one of the largest Irish bars in the city. Many of its customers are the well-heeled delegates from The Graves, dropping by to sink a Guinness or four and catch the big game after the big meeting. It may be this natural pairing of high-end glamour and easy-going informality that makes this city such a damn fun night out?
Who knows...? But it works.
Early evening and every corner has a tempting doorway. If you know the password sneak into Marvel – a traditional speakeasy with an unmarked entrance. Feeling a little homesick? Try their Anglophile Cocktail – a whole egg, Licor 43, Angostura bitters, and bourbon. A couple of these and the UK is little more than a distant memory.
Rooftop terraces are big news here. There's Union, specialising in fine dining and craft beers or Seven, a luxury steakhouse and sushi bar. If you can handle it, they boast a house-speciality of a 24 oz, 35 day-aged Omaha Beef steak. Apparently it's one of the best cuts in the world.
Shopping is a well-kept secret in Minneapolis; an anomalous state law means that sales tax is set at 0 per cent, so there are no nasty surprises at the cash desk. Happily, it's also home to Mall of America, one of the largest shopping centres in the country. Take the Metro Blue-line along Hiawatha Avenue and explore 4.2 million square feet of retail heaven. If that's not enough of a high there's a full-sized roller coaster running through the centre to really get the adrenalin flowing.
Culture and the Arts are big in the city. Take a spin on a hire-by-the-hour pedal bike up to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden near the Walker Art Centre. (The Spoonbridge and Cherry is one of the city's most iconic pieces.) Or maybe a romantic stroll across the Stone Arch Bridge at the foot of the thundering St Anthony Falls and catch a matinee at the world-famous Guthrie Theatre.
Heading back downtown you hit the bustling business district, housing glass-fronted offices, shops and restaurants, interconnected by the Skyway – an ingenious, weatherproof network of covered walkways. Even if you're not a customer, the magnificent Art Deco surroundings of the old North-Western National Bank in the Wells Fargo Centre are definitely worth a visit. Rose-marble pillars and dazzling Austrian crystal and burnished bronze chandeliers; it'd be hard to feel gloomy about an overdraft in surroundings like these.
Early evening and the office workers loosen their ties, sling their jackets across their desk and the city comes alive. Revellers pour in from all across the state and the region's huge student population adds to the happy chaos. It can get a little wild at times (there's stern-looking door-staff at the pizza parlours to control the crowds at throwing-out time) but it never feels edgy
At the end of the evening, roll into Brothers, a joyous and rowdy bar, unselfconsciously championing Eighties hits and rock classics. The edge of the heaving dance-floor is delineated by a precariously-positioned dartboard. It's in play throughout the night, adding to the excitement and keeping those dancers moving.
A night in Minneapolis can wipe you out, so you'll need just the right place for the morning after. Try Hell's Kitchen on 80/9th Street, nothing, (they are keen to point out) to do with the grumpy Scot. It's an ambitious local enterprise with an earnest, homespun approach. Their secret recipe peanutbutter is sold all over the world and even the ketchup is home-made
Give it an hour or two, a couple of their famous lemon-ricotta pancakes and a mug of their strongest coffee, and you'll be ready to do Minneapolis all over again...
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